Detectives: Transgender woman not victim of hate crime

VIDEO: Detectives: Transgender woman not victim of hate crime

KING COUNTY, Wash. — A transgender woman who says she was targeted by teens who used derogatory terms could now face her own set of charges.

Investigators say the woman told them she was taunted by teens on Dec. 10 at the Tukwila International Bus Station. She claimed she used pepper spray later on the bus to protect herself. More than a week later, detectives have reviewed surveillance video from the bus and from a cellphone and say it was the woman who initiated the assault.

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The King County Sheriff’s Office released video taken on board the Metro bus in Tukwila. It shows the woman approaching the teens at the back of the bus and pepper-spraying them. When she got off the bus, they did, too. The teens attacked her near the bus stop on Andover Park West near Midland Drive. The beating was caught on a cellphone camera while witnesses told the teens to stop. That night, one 14-year-old and two 16-year-olds were arrested for investigation of malicious harassment (a hate crime), and felony assault.

Now detectives say it was the woman who started it when she pepper-sprayed the teens on the bus.

“We haven’t been able to prove through video or witnesses that there was any other incident that occurred prior to this at all,” said Sgt. Ryan Abbott, with the King County Sheriff’s Office, on Friday.

Now the woman will likely be charged with felony assault in the third degree. The teens will likely face misdemeanor assault charges. Detectives say they cannot claim self-defense because of the time between the pepper-spray incident on the bus and the attack off the bus.

“They didn’t do it because of who she is or her sexuality. They did it just strictly because they were assaulted, and then they got off the bus and assaulted her back,” said Abbott.

It will be up to the King County prosecutor to make a charging decision.